The Chemicals Found in Meth

August 7th 2016

Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug. But one of the most dangerous things about it is that it's often made on the streets and may contain chemicals that are as bad for you as the drug itself.

Some of those ingredients can be surprising and will sound familiar, according to a study by, a site that provides resources on substance abuse and addiction, based on information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


"The dangers of meth are well-documented: It's probably safe to say most people are aware that meth isn't good for you," Tristan Harris at told ATTN:. "We were wondering just how damaging the ingredients were, so we analyzed some of meth's common ingredients to find out what they do to the human body."

Street meth can contain antifreeze, paint thinner, lithium, battery acid, and worse. These chemicals can be extremely harmful to the body, and the effects of ingesting them can have long-term consequences, the study said.

"Because meth is a man-made street drug, there's a lot of variety per batch, which means a lack of consistency," Harris said. "People may be surprised at just how unpalatable some of the components are. Paint thinner, antifreeze and battery acid definitely aren't high on the list of substances most people are eager to ingest."

Doing adulterated meth can result in permanent blindness, coughing up blood, and seizures, Harris said. "Since the components of meth are different in each batch, it's hard to say what side effects a user will encounter, which is another reason this drug is so harmful," he added.

The Midwest is home to the most meth labs, and hard economic times in rural America has lead to a booming meth trade. Meth addiction and related issues cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars per year; it's clear that more treatment and education is necessary.

The chemicals found in meth can make it far more damaging than other addictive substances, including prescription drugs such as Adderall, which can be as addictive as meth, Harris said.


"Chemically, the drugs are similar, but meth is damaging to dopamine and serotonin neurons and produces a more potent euphoric feeling," Harris said. "And, as we noted in our research, the ingredients that meth is cut with make it even more dangerous to the average person."

ER visits related to meth dropped significantly during the mid-to-late 2000s, the study found. But since then, such visits have increased significantly, right up to 2011, the last year data was available. Kicking a meth addiction can be extremely difficult: Users who go to rehab have only a 12 percent success rate over the long term.

Share your opinion

Do you know someone with a meth addiction?

Yes 41%No 59%